Kristen at iBooks chatted with me today, and WOW lots of information. I’m excited to share this with you because I feel like we’re prying back some of the Secret Mystery stuff and getting at the part everyone wants, authors and retailers alike – how to sell more books!
Here we go…
HOW CAN I GET PROMO AT IBOOKS?
This is the question everyone has, and the one I asked first. The aura among authors seems to be that you have to go to a conference or sell a certain number of books in order to get a “rep” and get promo. Turns out, that’s not true at all. As Kristen explained, corporate Apple restricts how much they can talk “publicly” both on the internet and at conferences, so it’s often hard to connect with authors. I used to hand out the contact info through my FB group, but I stopped doing that because I don’t want to have to serve as gatekeeper anymore. You can email iBooks and ask to be put in contact with Kristen and see if that works. Or make contact at a conference. Or find someone you know who is running iBooks Promo and ask them to put you in contact (ie not me: I’ve already sent a ton of indie authors Kristen’s way).
ALSO: iBooks doesn’t care if you publish direct, through D2D or Smash; they care much more about your dedication to being an author on iBooks (see below).
GENERAL COMMENTS: Kristen wants us to know that iBooks is committed to the future, that they think reading will be on iPads and iPhones, and they want us to let people know that iBooks is actually already on their devices! They’re the “baby of bookstores” only 5-6 years old, but they’re global and committed. They believe iBooks is the long game and authors are wise to be on iBooks.
Contacting them through the contact info (see above) is the way to get noticed. Just because you submit doesn’t mean they will promote you, but they want to counter the idea that they’re behind some wall that people have to scale to get their attention. It’s not about how many books you’ve sold. It’s how you have great covers and great books – and also author commitment. They don’t want you to feel like you have to go to conferences to contact them. In fact, she says because Apple Corporate keeps a lid on their PR, they’re restricted in how much information they can put out at conferences or online. But small groups like this are great for getting info out to people. And they really want people to feel like they can contact iBooks. But they have a small team so it may take a while for them to get back to you (2-3 days). Kristen also wants you to know that people do well on iBooks all the time even without promo – by using the features listed in their Marketing on iBooks document (included in contact info above), books get traction all the time.
AUTHOR COMMITMENT: This is important to iBooks. They want to see your entire catalog on iBooks, they want to see iBooks links on your website and social media, and they don’t want AMAZON to always be the first link, because they think people click on the first link most (which is true).They want you to change the way you talk to your readers. Maybe rotate your links or do iBooks-specific promos/ads. They understand that people might have to take time to transition from being exclusive on Amazon, but commitment to being on iBooks is important to them. They will give preference to authors who do that, but they won’t *not* promo you just because you don’t have all your books on iBooks.
TRANSLATIONS: They’re committed to promoting books if there are translations as well – this is potentially something for SKQ with her French and German translation books! Yay! Probably doesn’t apply to most people, but if it does, it’s something to consider.
PRE-ORDERS: These are BIG on iBooks – “pre-orders are the whole game” – up to a year in advance, assetless, coverless, then have to upload the book/cover 10 days out. Why so important? Because the accumulation of sales during that time drops at release and boosts your book up the charts. This is basically *the* promo they like to see you use. They want you to put up as many pre-orders as you can as far out as you can.
SNEAK PEEK: They encourage using the SNEAK PEEK feature during pre-order, which is basically where you upload a “sample” that’s separate from the option where iBooks generates its own sample from the book. Your separate “sample” can be a cover reveal, it could be a sneak peek, it could be a sample chapter… totally up to you. Then, when the book releases, you can revert to having it just pull a regular “preview” from the book (auto-sample), or you can continue to have this “sample” be your preview. While this feature is used, right above the ORANGE PRE-ORDER button is a button that says GET SAMPLE – that’s where you get the exclusive content. You direct your readers there.
EXCLUSIVE PRE-ORDERS: Specifically for Romance – if you put up a pre-order on iBooks at least 2 weeks before it’s available anywhere else, they’ll highlight it in a feature “exclusive preorders for romance” which gets good visibility. Just romance for now but may expand later.
PROMO: They have a Master List of promos that they do, and it’s changing all the time. Examples: Series Starters (permafree first-in-series), Pre-order Highlights, lots of different things going all the time. They like for you to look at the site and see what promos they’re running and use the contact info (see above) to let them know what you’re interested in. They’ll use the outline of your promo plans (release dates, advertising,etc) as a starting point and see what might fit (including genre-specific promos or whatever they have going on). They’re willing to stack promo around a Bookbub – in fact, they like it better when you have external (off-store) promo that is sending readers to the iBooks site and are willing to amplify that signal. They refresh their stock on Monday nights, so plan around that (ie start your promo on a Tuesday). They like to see you with a dropped price for at least a week to maximize the effect. For Series Starters, they like you to notify them at least a month before a new release (say book 2 in a series) that you’re running a promo on the first-in-series, to give them a chance to schedule it. Basically, fill out the contact info (see above) and let them know what your plans are… and plan ahead.
PROMO-CODES: This is a feature I just recently learned about and I think really could be useful. Each book has 250 gift codes that you can use during pre-order or after release. If you use them during pre-order, and have uploaded the actual book, readers will be able to download the book (basically using it as an ARC that’s available with the click of a button on their devices). Promo codes don’t count for sales or ranking, but they *do* count for searching. So searches are somehow tied to how many times people *access* your book, so handing out review copies this way is to your benefit. It makes it possible to get lots of early reviews on your books.
CATEGORIES: The first two categories listed when you upload are most important, so make sure you pick those well.
SEARCH: Search terms pull from your book’s description – they make it long for a reason. They want you to pack in all the relevant stuff, blurbs, quotes, author bio, etc, in the description to make it easy to search for.
APPLE’S FUTURE PLANS: basically they don’t talk about it. But know that they’re doing stuff.
GROUP PROMO – If you bring a group promo to their attention, they’ll treat it case-by-case. They like to see ideas from authors, so this is good to do. If they can’t promo the group, they might promo the individual books.
D2D, DIRECT, Smash – doesn’t matter to iBooks how you get your books on the platform – they’re willing to promo any way.
That’s it! A ton of info, but I’m already re-tooling my plans to make them iBooks friendly, and I can see how some of these things would make a difference for visibility.